Friday, 7 December 2018

More Neighbourhood Plan news

There is quite a run of Neighbourhood Plan news on my blog - and I make no apologies as there is a lot going on in Dorset. Updates this week include:

An appeal decision in regard to one of the key sites in the Shillingstone Neighbourhood Plan has been issued, with the proposed development (that was contrary to the Neighbourhood Plan requirements yet had been recommended for approval by officers) firmly dismissed. This shows that Neighbourhood Plans can make a difference.

Hazelbury Bryan has received their Examiner's report recommending some minor changes and to proceed to referendum.  The Examiner commended the Plan for being attractively set out, with generous use of plans and photographs, making it very user-friendly and easy to navigate.   

Holwell Neighbourhood Plans' Examiner's report is now available online.  The Examiner recommended some minor changes and to proceed to referendum. He congratulated the Working Group and the Parish Council on producing a comprehensive and well-illustrated document, that captured the character and appearance of the parish and showed a commendable extent of contact with the public during the preparation of the Plan. 

Sturminster Newton's Examiner's report has also been received - again recommending that the plan can proceed to referendum, but with more significant changes including making the reserve sites into site allocations and increasing the supply above that of the adopted Local Plan, based on the need for additional housing identified through the (yet to be examined) Local Plan Review. The controversial site adjoining the Bull Tavern has also been deleted - although the Examiner did consider that it may be possible to alter the policy in order to comply, but that this may not be helpful in the context of the existing planning application for that site.

Fontmell Magna Neighbourhood Plan was formally 'made' on 28 November, with the District Council offering its congratulations to the Parish Council and members of the Neighbourhood Plan Group in producing a successful plan.

Last, but by no means least, Arne Neighbourhood Plan starts its pre-submission consultation today, and will run to 28 January 2019.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Askerswell's polling day results announced

And another successful referendum result, this time for Askerswell in West Dorset. Certainly the smallest Neighbourhood Plan population in Dorset with a total electorate of 138, managed a 46% turnout and a sold 'yes' vote of 83%. Congratulations to the team there, whose plan now defines a settlement boundary for development purposes for the first time.

Friday, 16 November 2018

So much happening!

There has been a lot going on over the summer - so there are really no excuses for such a long blog drought.  I think the drought has been because I'm generally an up-beat optimist, and I was really disappointed in the NPPF's treatment of Neighbourhood Plans (the revisions could have been much more supportive of the localism concept and got rid of the prematurity loophole) - so I just couldn't bring myself to blog about that news! 

However last night's Neighbourhood Plan referendum result in Fontmell Magna is sufficient to turn things around and get me bouncing right back -

Turnout:    47.8%
Percentage in favour:   91.5%

This is a quite impressive result - in my experience only plans that avoid the whole question of allocating sites for development get over 90% approval rating.  The turnout is a really excellent too (higher than the other North Dorset Neighbourhood Plans).  And it certainly sets the benchmark for Pimperne in North Dorset, who will be next to the vote following their successful examination, although quite likely to be followed shortly by two more as the Examiners' reports are due any minute for Sturminster Newton and Hazelbury Bryan.

Well done to all the volunteers who put effort into the Fontmell Magna Neighbourhood Plan - a great result and here's hoping that it will be as influential as it should be in future planning decisions.

Lots of Local Plan activity around Dorset too - so that may well be my next blog post...

Friday, 13 July 2018

Over 90% support for Gillingham's Neighbourhood Plan

Big congratulations to the Gillingham, for the latest Neighbourhood Plan in Dorset to pass its referendum milestone.  It has taken a lot of commitment by the Neighbourhood Plan Group, who started as one of the front runners some 6 years ago.  I know the Neighbourhood Plan Group has put in considerable effort to prepare and consult on the plan, and also to ensure people were informed at this referendum stage - and I hope they are very proud of their achievement.

The votes were: 
Yes 1,919 (90.5%)
No 201 (9.5%)

This is a clear majority and means that the plan will go before North Dorset District Council on 27th July 2018 to agree the results of the referendum and agree to 'make' the plan part of the statutory development plan.    

Gillingham Neighbourhood Plan Group in action (2016)

Friday, 15 June 2018

PD or not PD?

Spotted on my travels this week - what appears to be a conversion under the permitted development rights to allow agricultural buildings to be converted to dwellings.  One original building (a grain store), physically separated into 2, upper part removed, no original openings retained as was, no sign of any of the original material…
Is this a conversion?
Answers on a postcard...

Friday, 8 June 2018

West Dorset and Weymouth Plan - emerging options now available to view

One to keep an eye on – the preferred options draft of the West Dorset and Weymouth Local Plan is now going through committees prior to consultation in August – October.  Click here for a look at the proposed policy changes and site allocations. 
Key points to note include:
  • 2.5% increase on proposed growth (up to 794 dwellings per annum) – but the actual supply could in theory deliver 955 dwellings per annum as it would include a ‘buffer’ of about 3,200 homes above what is needed;
  • New site specific allocations at all of the towns, plus Crossways.  This includes a major development north of Dorchester, significant growth at Sherborne, and the release of further sites at Crossways.  No specific allocations proposed in the area's villages; 
  • Proposed approach to setting minimum growth figures for Neighbourhood Plan areas;
  • More permissive approach for residential conversions in the countryside, providing the building is not completely isolated (so at a minimum should forms of a hamlet or group of buildings);
  • More relaxed approach proposed on the size of replacement dwellings in the countryside;
  • Small sites (up to 5 dwellings) will not be expected to make any affordable housing contributions for the foreseeable future.
Get in touch with me if this may effect you and you need some professional planning advice…

Broadstone Neighbourhood Plan - 95% vote 'yes'

Broadstone Neighbourhood Plan Referendum results are now in – 31% turnout (with over 2,600 people voting) and a resounding ‘yes’ from 95% of the voters.  Congratulations to all involved!

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Internet traffic

No doubt you have all been on the receiving end of a flurry of emails this week due to the GDPR compliance deadline.  For those that may have gone unscathed, this piece of legislation has been brought in across the EU to deal with personal and sensitive data protection issues.  Like many other businesses I have been reviewing my procedures and have uploaded a privacy statement onto my website.  It has also made me ponder about how many 4 letter acronyms are left (and how many have been used in planning, which is renowned for its jargon).  I am also grateful that at least internet traffic is not the same as road traffic – otherwise there would have been absolute chaos on the roads this week, not to mention the smog!

And finally… like ships passing in the night, Hazelbury Bryan’s Pre-submission Consultation ended, while Holwell’s consultation began.  Luckily a lot of the far-flung statutory consultees can be emailed the various documents involved.  Congratulations to both groups on reaching this milestone.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Dorset Neighbourhood Plans - update

A few notable Neighbourhood Plan milestones achieved so far this month
  • Piddle Valley Neighbourhood Plan's referendum took place yesterday (19 April) - the results have been declared with 75% in favour of the plan
  • Gillingham's examination has now concluded, and the examiner's report has been published, signalling that this too can progress to referendum subject to some relatively modest amendments.
  • Sturminster Newton's plan is now going through its pre-examination consultation
  • The pre-examination consultation on the plan for Askerswell parish, created by their Neighbourhood Forum, ends on Monday.
  • The plans for Fontmell Magna and Pimperne have also been submitted for their examination. 
  • Hazelbury Bryan has published its pre-submission draft plan for consultation
A fantastic amount of effort by local volunteers representing their communities, so that local people can have more of a voice on the future of their area!

Monday, 19 March 2018

New Neighbourhood Planning funding and support package launched

Announcement out today on the launch of the 2018-2022 neighbourhood planning grants through Locality

Expressions of interest for the new grant open from 3 April
Good news in particular for groups that are:

ü  Allocating sites for housing
ü  Including site-specific design codes in your plan
ü  A designated business neighbourhood plan
ü  A cluster of three or more parishes writing a single plan
ü  A Neighbourhood Area with a population of over 25,000
As if you tick any of these criteria you can apply for an additional £8,000 on top of the basic grant of £9,000, and you will also potentially be eligible for the technical support packages

Saturday, 17 March 2018

The revised NPPF - what Neighbourhood Plan groups need to know

I completely understand if not everyone wants to spend time ploughing their way through the draft national planning policy framework.  Not all of you reading my blog are insomniacs (or maybe you are?)  But for communities working on neighbourhood plans – or who are now sitting back having got said plan through its referendum – it is worth making a few points back to the planning ministers to make sure all this effort is not undermined by some careless wording in the national plan.

There is a little footnote in paragraph 14 which is about those times when there is a housing shortage, and the presumption in favour of sustainable development.  This little footnote clarifies what "recently brought into force" means, and this determines whether full weight should be given to your neighbourhood plan.  What it says is that your plan needs to be less than 2 years old.  This basically means that to keep your plan effective, you need to start reviewing it before the ink has dried.  And even then you still won’t win.  Let’s face it, although it is theoretically possible, I don’t think any group in the country has managed to get a plan through the system in under 2 years.  Even Local Plans have a ‘5 year review’ expectation, and they don’t have to go through a referendum.  Why isn’t your plan at least ‘good enough’ for 5 years?
To make this point >>> complete Q4 of the response form!

One point that is welcome is that housing requirement figures for designated neighbourhood areas will be set through strategic plans (see paragraphs 66 and 67).  This give local people the opportunity to input into this process, particularly as a simple formula-based approach to determining a figure is not going to be appropriate in some areas. 
To make this point >>> complete Q14 of the response form!

There are some parts of the NPPF that haven’t changed, that perhaps should. 
Paragraph 51 on prematurity is one such example.  At the moment, as soon as some landowners find out that their site is not likely to be included in the plan (ie as soon as the results of the site options consultation are published), they feel they have nothing to lose by submitting a speculative outline application to get in ahead of the neighbourhood plan.  Yet the prematurity argument doesn’t kick in until after the pre-submission and the examination consultations, which is easily another 4 to 6 months.  We need the NPPF revised to say that, in areas progressing a Neighbourhood Plan, major applications will be considered premature by the time the pre-submission draft is published unless it is clear that the proposals are supported by the community.

To make this point >>> complete Q10 of the response form!

Another example is the simplistic stance that the "most recently adopted plan" takes precedence (paragraph 32).  Which means that generic policies in a revised Local Plan, that are not tailored to an area, should arguably trump more detailed policies in an adopted Neighbourhood Plan.  Wouldn’t it be better to get the planning authority to publish a statement to clarify which Neighbourhood Plan policies (or parts) would remain in force, and those which are superseded, as part of their plan-making process?
To make this point >>> complete Q6 of the response form!

There a many other points I could add, but if you are still awake, you can always contact me if you are interested…
The link to the consultation and response form is here:

Friday, 23 February 2018

Getting the work-blog balance right...

Long time no blog!

People talk about a work-life balance, I am beginning to think there should also be a work-blog balance, and over the last year I have failed quite dramatically to get this right!

So, a new blog page for what seems to be coinciding with a very Spring-like day.  To get the ball rolling I thought I would do a very brief catch-up on some of the Neighbourhood Plan milestones being reached around Dorset in recent months - though I have cut down the list to those reaching the final stages, as it was getting far too long for a blog!!
  • Broadstone - examiners report received with the thumbs-up to proceed to referendum
  • Broadwindsor - options consultation carried out late last year and work has started on their draft plan, which should be out for its pre-submission consultation before the summer
  • Buckland Newton - passed its referendum early November (60% in favour, 38% turnout) and officially 'made' at Full Council on 7 December. 
  • Fontmell Magna - about to submit for their examination
  • Gillingham - examination underway
  • Hazelbury Bryan - pre-submission consultation hopefully starting late March
  • Holwell - at its plan-drafting stage, which should be out for its pre-submission consultation before the summer
  • Iwerne Minster - having had a lot of activity around its pre-submission consultation, they have recently touched base with their community to establish whether they are still on track
  • Piddle Valley - referendum being scheduled for this April
  • Pimperne - about to submit for their examination
  • Sturminster Newton - plan submitted for its examination
  • Wareham - at its plan-drafting stage, pre-submission consultation hopefully starting late April
And this list doesn't include the many others out there all making good progress. 

The continued planning activity around the county has brought into focus the importance of a Neighbourhood Plan when the lack of a 5 years housing land supply undermines the Local Plan policies - more on that 'perfect storm' in a future blog...